Quentin Rice, Staff Writer
Standing between a great mural of a watercolor forest and a crowd of leisurely drinkers, a collection of some of the finest musical talent Richmond has to offer laid down some jazz grooves that were fun, above all else. Weekend Plans is a nine-piece jazz outfit that take a lot of notes from their Richmond contemporaries, NO BS! Brass — most notably their commitment to creating tunes for people to dance away their inhibitions.
Weekend Plans released their debut album “State of Nine” Feb. 15 after raising the funds for it through Kickstarter. It’s easy to tell the group is a nine-piece when the record spins — they each bring their own musical influences to the table while still maintaining a core chemistry and connection.
Even for the band’s newest member, guitarist Forrest Link, the chemistry was present right away. Link joined last August and has had no problem settling in.
“I’ve been in one or two other groups and for whatever that means it’s really great. All of our shows are kind of like Christmas,” Link said. “It feels like hanging out with your best buddies in the world literally just making music.”
“State of Nine” features nine tracks of upbeat jazz tunes that contain a little bit of something for everybody.
“When I started this group, I didn’t want anything to be synthesized. I wanted a full horn section and a full rhythm section; and not only feature a singer, but also feature a rapper,” said frontman Kayen Wilborn. “That way we can market ourselves to any crowd; the more jazz heavy crowd, the more hip-hop headed crowd, the more rock headed crowd. People who just want to dance.”
It’s arguable that being a great jazz musician demands more knowledge of the genre and past greats than other genres, and Weekend Plans are no slouches in this department.
“I’m a church boy, so I listened to nothing but church music for the majority of my life,” said drummer Desean Gault. “It wasn’t until middle school that I found out my dad had all this heat on his iPod … Billy Taylor, Pat Metheny, Miles Davis. I said, ‘Can I borrow your iPod?’ and he’s like, ‘Sure,’ and I never gave it back. To this day, it’s still in my possession.”
A handful of the members have a history with the VCU Peppas. Wilborn was an assistant director for a number of years. Gault and trombonist Zach Taylor both have tenure with the Peppas, formerly one of the most respected pep bands in the nation. Weekend Plans employ the same ethos of energy and uninhibited good times in their performances.
There is an infamous run of seven notes in jazz music known as “the lick,” which has become something of a meme among jazz musicians. It has been all but numerically proven to be the most common riff in jazz history, showing up in countless improvisa
tions from artists large and small. But it’s rarely the melodic focus of a track. “Last Call” breaks that norm.
Bassist Jordan Mason recorded the idea for the track on a voice memo and was met with incredulity from Wilborn, who later liked the idea of building a song on such a pervasive and familiar riff. It will surely put a cheeky smile on the face of anyone who’s hip to the joke.
Further down the line, the band is thinking about how their sophomore record can highlight the contributions and talents of every band member.
“On this next record, I’d like to have a song that’s maybe more guitar driven or a song that’s more rhythm-section driven,” Wilborn said. “So, I think this next record will show that we’re growing, not only as a unit or as a family, but also that we’re growing musically. I want to see how we can really utilize all nine members.”
Weekend Plans will perform live at Cary St. Cafe on April 11, at the Camel April 15 and again on May 11 and 16. More info on shows and tickets can be found on the group’s Facebook page. They can also be found on Twitter and Instagram @wkndplans, and “State of Nine” is available on all major streaming platforms.